White House was 'unaware' of immigration detainee release
February 27th, 2013
12:29 PM ET
10 years ago

White House was 'unaware' of immigration detainee release

(CNN) - Neither the White House nor the Homeland Security Department headquarters were made aware of the Immigration Customs and Enforcement decision to release detainees ahead of the pending forced spending cuts, an administration official said Wednesday.

Separately, at a press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the decision was made by ICE "without any input from the White House."

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"The agency released these low-risk, non-criminal detainees under a less-expensive form of monitoring to ensure detention levels stayed within ICE's overall budget," he said.

The agency announced Tuesday that it was releasing "several hundred" people out of detention facilities to other "less costly" forms of supervision because of the automatic across-the-board spending reductions set to begin Friday.

Gillian Christensen, a customs enforcement spokeswoman, said the cases were reviewed over the past week as part of agency preparations for the government-wide cuts, set to total $85 billion in the next seven months.

"As fiscal uncertainty remains over the continuing resolution and possible sequestration, ICE has reviewed its detained population to ensure detention levels stay within ICE's current budget," she said in a statement.

"All of these individuals remain in removal proceedings. Priority for detention remains on serious criminal offenders and other individuals who pose a significant threat to public safety," she added.

That move prompted an incredulous reaction from House Speaker John Boehner, who said on CBS the release of detainees was "outrageous."

"This is very hard for me to believe, that they can't find cuts elsewhere in their agency," Boehner said, adding: "I'm looking for more facts but I can't believe that they can't find the kind of savings they need out of that department short of letting criminals go free."

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Republican and sharp critic of many Obama administration immigration actions, said in an interview on Fox News that the release is "unexplainable" and "unbelievable."

Republican leaders have criticized Obama administration warnings as scare tactics, but also said the cuts would be bad policy and should be changed. Only rigid fiscal conservatives have backed the concept of mandatory deep spending cuts as a painful first step of deficit reduction.

The immigration service also denied that the Homeland Security official responsible for immigration enforcement had stepped down from his post over the situation, calling one report "inaccurate and misleading."

That official, ICE spokeswoman Christensen said in a statement, "announced several weeks ago to ICE senior leadership that he planned to retire after 40 years in federal service and 6 years at ICE. As planned, and as shared with ICE staff weeks ago, Mr. Mead will retire at the end of April."

- CNN's Jessica Yellin, Jim Acosta, Kevin Liptak, Terry Frieden and Carol Cratty contributed to this report.

Filed under: Debt • Deficit • Immigration • White House
soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. Jenn, philadelphia

    I should probably start to drink the kool-aid, then my head won't hurt as much listening to you people. How is nothing ever his fault? Clinton had a Republican majority and worked with them. Reagan had a Democrat majority and worked with them. Apparently it is possible. Between "we didn't know" or "it's their fault", I can start giving the daily press conferences!

    February 27, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC


    The only thing Obama has claimed responsibility for is killing Bin Laden. Nothing will get solved there is no ownership no one is responsible, more of the blame game.
    It's tee time, folks. What did George W. Bush lay claim to besdies "Mission Accomplished"? Brownie doing a good job with post-Katrina recovery?

    February 27, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  3. Rodboy

    Now you really get to see Gpv't workers at their best – it is like watching a child's temper tantrum. So rep or demo it is the worst of times now , with both side lying, including are first Black president.

    February 27, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  4. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer


    No Sir, the numbers are correct. I've kept tab of the CBO's figures and the war figures from other independent sources from day one. When the Iraq war ended, the cost was 3.2 Trillion. A year ago, the Afghan war was estimated at 2.1 Trillion and counting. And counting because the Bush administration deliberately and recklessly abandoned and prolonged the Afghan war to invade Iraq. By end of the Afghan war, if you do the Arithmetic, the final cost of both wars will be well over $6 Trillion. That in itsellf should be an impeachable offense.

    February 27, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  5. denny

    Why didn't he/she release Americans from the jails? At least they'd have their "walking papers". What's happening to our country? Obama must go.

    February 27, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
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